Friday, December 31, 2010

'The Fighter' Movie Review

Title: The Fighter

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGeew

The sports biography has maintained its status of being one of the most popular genres in the American film industry today by emphasizing the main character preparing for an important game. However, the new Relativity Media drama ‘The Fighter’ hoped to separate itself from the norm by also focusing on the characters learning how to cope with each other. Director David O. Russell not only succeeded in his promise to set his biography about boxer Mickey Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) apart from other sports memoirs by showcasing the fighter’s rise to fame, but by chronicling his struggles with his family as well.

‘The Fighter’ chronicles Mickey’s boxing career in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts in 1993. While his half-brother, welterweight boxer Dickey Eklund (portrayed by Christian Bale), is still living off his 1978 win against Sugar Ray Leonard and has succumbed to a crack addition, he’s determined to help Mickey get his big break in the ring. But Mickey is firm in his decision to separate himself from Dickey after he’s sent to prison for several crimes, including masked armed robbery. Mickey also wants to break free from their dominating mother Alice (played by Melissa Leo), who serves as their manager. Mickey finds the strength to branch out on his own in the boxing world after he begins dating Charlene (portrayed by Amy Adams) and starts training with Lowell’s police sergeant Mickey O’Keefe.

Wahlberg helped set ‘The Fighter’ apart from other sports biographies by truly committing to the role. Not only did he have Micky and Dickey move in with him during the film’s pre-production to understand their lives better, he also insisted on performing all of his own stunts. He began a strict bodybuilding regimen four years before the movie began shooting, and hired former professional boxer Freddie Roach to train him.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Read more:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Decemberists Release New Album, 'The King Is Dead'

Is This New Album Proof The Decemberists Know How to Have a Good Time?

The Folk Group Prepares to Release its Country-Based ‘The King Is Dead’ Early Next Year

Written by: Karen Benardello

Indie folk rock band The Decemberists have made the right decision to reinvent themselves yet again by releasing its new album ‘The King Is Dead’ on January 18, 2011. The group’s label, Capitol Records, confirmed the news on its official website,, via a press release on November 11.

‘The King Is Dead,’ which will feature 10 country-based songs, is The Decemberists’ first release since its 2009 album ‘The Hazards of Love,’ which rightfully received acclaim for its rock edge. The group once again teamed with producer Tucker Martine, and collaborated with bluegrass singer-songwriter Gillian Welch and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. These duets will hopefully bring out the up-beat pop and lush ballads of the group’s singer, Colin Meloy.

While Meloy has discussed how difficult it was to record the band’s previous complex records, he said “…this one (‘The King Is Dead’) may have been harder to do…It’s a real challenge to make simple music.” He added that recording the album was “an exercise in restraint.” While he has also said he somewhat missed the “epic-ness” of the group’s previous records, the new album seems destined to prove The Decemberists still know how to have a good time.

The group recorded ‘The King Is Dead’ in a converted barn at Pendarvis Farm outside of their hometown of Portland, Oregon. Meloy accurately described the recording as his own musical journey coming full circle. “Over the last eleven years or so, since I moved to Portland, I feel like I've been mining mostly English traditions for influence. I guess I've kind of come back to a lot of the more American music that got me going in the first place,” including R.E.M. and Neil Young.

To help promote the new album, The Decemberists performed the record’s lead single, ‘Down by the Water,’ on Conan O’Brien’s new TBS late-night show on November 18, two days after it was released digitally. ‘The King Is Dead’ is now available for pre-order on the band’s official website,

The track listing for ‘The King Is Dead’ is:

1. Don't Carry It All
2. Calamity Song
3. Rise to Me
4. Rox in the Box
5. January Hymn
6. Down by the Water
7. All Arise!
8. June Hymn
9. This is Why We Fight
10. Dear Avery

'Oblivion' DVD Movie Review

'Oblivion' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

Sci-fi and the western have long been some of the most popular and successful genres in American movie history, so combining the two would seem like a great idea to any film studio. So after the release of his studio’s, Full Moon Entertainment, hit 1989 film ‘Puppet Master’ and its 1991 follow-up ‘Puppet Master 2,’ B-movie veteran actor Charles Band hoped to create another successful franchise, the sci-fi-western mix ‘Oblivion.’ But with its absurd plot, lackluster acting and terrible special effects, Band is most likely happy that many people have forgotten one of his studio’s earliest entries.

The ill-conceived storyline for the movie, which was written by Peter David, follows renegade alien leader Redeye (played by Andrew Divoff) as he and his gang of outlaws try to overtake the small town of Oblivion on a planet light-years away from Earth in the year 3031. Redeye shoots and kills his nemesis, Oblivion’s only lawman, Marshall Stone (portrayed by Michael Genovese), and begins terrorizing the town’s remaining residents.

Meanwhile, Stone’s son Zack (played by Richard Joseph Paul) rescues a native, Buteo (portrayed by Jimmy F. Skaggs), from his impending death. While Zack hasn’t been back to Oblivion in years, the town’s undertaker, Gaunt (played by Carrel Struycken) seeks him out and brings him back to town to pay his respects to his newly-deceased father. While back in Oblivion, Zack not only has to deal with the town’s contempt towards him, but fight Redeye and his desperados at the same time.

‘Oblivion,’ which was first released on VHS in 1994 and was re-released onto DVD by Full Moon this year, deserved credit for trying to uniquely combine the sci-fi and western genres together. However, director Sam Irvin failed to create a distinctive sci-fi-western mix, as the film’s story wasn’t entertaining or intriguing. Irving focused too heavily on the characters debating whether they should take revenge on those who wronged them or if they should forgive them and move on. Since the film leaned heavier towards the western genre, as there weren’t many space and/or alien effects, fans of the western genre will most likely be disappointed Irving didn’t include more fight scenes that they have grown accustomed to.

Read more:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Exclusive Patrick Fabian Interview

Exclusive Patrick Fabian Interview about 'The Last Exorcism' DVD Release

Written by: Karen Benardello

Read our exclusive interview with Patrick Fabian, who portrays Reverend Cotton Marcus in the mockumentary horror film ‘The Last Exorcism.’ The hit movie, which was directed by Daniel Stamm, is scheduled to be released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 4, 2011. Fabian discusses with us, among other things, what it was like to appear in the critically-acclaimed movie and what his future career plans are.

Shockya (SY): ‘The Last Exorcism’ made over $20 million alone over its opening weekend (August 27-29, 2010). What did it feel like knowing that so many people accepted it and went out to the theater to see it?

Patrick Fabian (PF): Well, it was a wonderful surprise. I think Lionsgate (the studio that released the movie) and Eli Roth (who produced the film), had a great viral campaign for it. For people to go out and see it, there was a great build-up of interest. We were hoping for maybe $9 million because it was a wide release. When it cracked over $20 million, we were neck-and-neck with another film. We were thrilled. We thought we had a good tale in the end, and that helped spread it out. I have to say, you just never know in this business. All the things can be in place, and you can have big movie stars, real Oscar contenders, and their movies can tank. You just never know what the public’s going to go for. We were thrilled, it was a real dream come true. Now it’s about $75 million worldwide, it’s just now opening in Australia. We’re up for a People’s Choice Award. I got a couple acting awards, up in Toronto. We were nominated for a Spirit Award. It’s the exorcism that keeps giving, no doubt about it!

Q: Like you said, you’re nominated for a couple of awards. What’s it like knowing the world embraced your performance as Reverend Marcus?

PF: Totally thrilling! I got the Best Actor award at the AfterDark Festival in Toronto, and that was voted by the audience. Then there’s a horror festival going on over in Europe, for 43 years now, the Sitges Awards, in a beach town in Spain. And I got an e-mail awhile ago, saying that I ended up winning the Best Actor award for it. So they asked me e-mail a speech, that they translated for me. Then a box came about four days later, and there’s a statue of the robot from ‘Metropolis.’ So it was like my mini-Oscar basically. It was totally fun. We’re still waiting to hear about the People’s Choice Awards. There will be a little gasp if that happens.

Q: When the movie comes out on Blu-ray and DVD on January 4th, right before the People’s Choice Awards, why should horror fans go out and buy it?

PF: It’s got all those great extras that you’ll want. There’s commentary from myself, Daniel Stamm, Ashley Bell (who portrayed Nell Sweetzer) and Louis Herthum (who played Nell’s father, Louis). Then there’s also commentary from Eli Roth and producers Eric Newman and Marc Abraham on another one. I’m curious to see, after doing the commentary myself, what Eli’s take on it is when he’s watching the film. There were parts when me and Ashley were like, “We really like this scene.” Then Eli might be like, “Yeah, I don’t really like it so much. Ashley and Patrick were really bad.” There’s also going to be behind-the-scenes footage, a whole making-of featurette that they put together. On the Blu-ray discs, they actually have Ashley and mine’s auditions. That, I’m very curious about. I remember the audition, but I’m curious to see if my memory actually stacks up to what’s there. That would be great to see. There are a lot of great features. It’s going to look great in Blu-ray machines. It’s also just in time for Valentine’s Day, so it will be a great gift for your loved ones!

Read more:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'How Do You Know' Movie Review

'How Do You Know' Movie Review

Writen by: Karen Benardello

A great director, fun script and entertaining cast often makes for an exciting movie, even if at least one out of the three is present. Advertising for Sony’s new romantic comedy, ‘How Do You Know,’ starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson, and written and directed by James L. Brooks, promised to provide audiences will all three. But looks can be deceiving in this comedy about people trying to figure out what to do with their lives after their professional lives are ruined.

‘How Do You Know’ follows Lisa Jorgenson (played by Witherspoon), who’s entire life has been dedicated to playing professional softball. Now cut by the U.S. National Team, a 31-year-old Lisa has to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. While making the transition, she continues her usual streak of having a fling with an athlete, professional baseball pitcher Matty (portrayed by Owen Wilson), a self-centered ladies man.

Lisa’s love life gets complicated when she goes on a blind date with George Madison (played by Paul Rudd), a businessman who’s been accused of a financial crime. He gets fired by his father Charles’ (portrayed by Jack Nicholson) company when authorities close in on arresting him. After meeting Lisa, he becomes optimistic about life in spite of his legal troubles.

Read more:

Kevin Spacey 'Casion Jack' Interview

Read our interview with Kevin Spacey, who stars as the title character, Jack Abramoff, in the new biopic ‘Casino Jack.’ Spacey was recently nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor-Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his portrayal of Abramoff. Spacey discusses with us, among other things, what it was like meeting and playing the Washington, D.C. lobbyist and businessman, who was just released from prison after being convicted of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion in 2006.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): How closely did you follow the Abramoff story before accepting the role?

Kevin Spacey (KS): I was already living in London when it broke. I vaguely remember it because I’ve always had a passion for politics. I’ve been involved in politics for some time. But I didn’t have what I’m sure it was in the U.S. We have this great thing called the 24-hour news cycle, that usually lasts for a week. I kind of remembered it, but not really. After I met George (Hickenlooper, the movie’s director), and we decided to make the film together, I found out I might have the opportunity to meet him. Then I said I’m going to hold off on reading anything, going back and doing a lot of research. I didn’t want to meet him with lots of other people’s commentary. I just wanted to meet the man. Then I started the process of research after I met him.

Q: What kind of research did you do into Orthodox Judaism religious life?

KS: As much as I could. I met with a couple of rabbis, someone taught me how to do the divining. I had to learn some of the Hebrew because George wanted me to be actually saying it. I think I’m relatively grateful that you can’t really hear what I’m saying. I’m sure I didn’t get it all right. That aspect of his character was so fascinating to me. On one hand, he was this extremely devoted religious man who believed in his faith. He consistently did it every single day, it was part of his routine. Yet, he makes a bunch of misjudgments, crosses the line. Yet, maybe in his own head, the good things he was doing, and in his mind, he was doing lots of good things, including giving lots and lots of money away to lots and lots of people who didn’t have it and needed it, justified the other things he was doing. It’s always interesting to find what you look at is a contradiction in someone’s behavior.

Q: When you finally met Jack, what questions did you ask him?

KS: I was mostly interested in the emotional terrain because all of the facts of the case. He may have had his own agenda. I would have known right away if he was being up front with me or not. At the end of the day, I think he was. I was just trying to figure out what he was going through. At what point, if there was a point, when he started to lose the forest for the trees. I think there’s a point where we start to illustrate in the film that he was living in a culture and an environment where lots of this stuff was going down. Lots of people were selling access, and they still are. So then you sort of go, wow. But then after meeting him and other people on his team, people that knew him, people that hated him. I got a lot of different opinions of him. Then I started reading everything. You Goggle his name, and you’re like, Wow, I’m going to be here for a week! Wow, was he made out to be the greediest devil in-carninate that ever walked the Earth. I thought that’s convenient for an industry that wants to pat itself on the back and say, See we threw this bad man in jail, cleaned up our industry. I think we just went through an election where more money was spent than at any other time in our country’s history. So that’s to me what was interesting about playing this guy. He’s symbolic of an environment and culture that’s still happening today.

Read more:

Barry Pepper 'Casino Jack' Interview

Read our round-table interview with Canadian actor Barry Pepper, who appears in the new biopic ‘Casino Jack.’ The Golden Globe and Emmy Award-nominated star portrays Michael Scanlon, a former communications director, lobbyist and public relations executive. Scanlon pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials after committing various financial crimes with his business partner Jack Abramoff.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): The movie takes a very serious subject and makes it light-hearted. Did that make it interesting as an actor?

Barry Pepper (BP): I think when you research this story, the books that we did, like Heist and various others, you follow this papertrail, you look at the schismatic personalities of these characters, like Mike Scanlon, Jack Abramoff (who was played by Kevin Spacey), it’s hard to believe this is factual reporting. You have to have a First Amendment lawyer back this script, for inaccuracies and liabilities. You can’t tell a story like this without production insurance. It is remarkable how lurid and comicable it is at times. This is a factual odyssey. This is truly how they lived, these guys were a couple of interesting characters. What’s remarkable is their schismatic personalities, if you will. I mean, here Jack is a very philanthropic man, a good father, a good husband. He’s a super-lobbyist involved in some of the most scandalous deeds. Yet when this scandal flooded the information highway, we fond out that Mike, throughout the entire time they worked together, was holding down a $10-an-hour lifeguarding job and living like a surfer dude. He was this completely alternate personality, living the high-life, working as a PR consultant with Jack Abramoff. It’s remarkable and stranger than fiction. I don’t know what other approach you would have taken to it. It’s all about the story. It’s hard to fathom how this ever took place. I think when you look back, you start to do your research on a project like this, at the climate of things, in 1994 when the Republicans took control of the House. Tom Delay and others turned it into big money. K Street was just flourishing at the time. It was this incredible breeding ground for men like Jack Abramoff. They brought in millions and millions and millions of dollars to the Republic campaign. They were lionized as heroes to the right. When the scandal broke, everyone flees and denies ever knowing them. Sadly, they became these famous fall guys for that period of greed. But nothing’s changed, and that’s a really sad, remarkable fact of this story that intrigued me to be a part of it. I have nothing in common with my character. This might serve as a cautionary tale of our democracy and the state of affairs in Washington such that democracy is drowning under a tsunami of corporate financing and campaign loot.

Q: Did you follow the Abramoff story when it was happening?

BP: I remember seeing him walk down those court room steps and his black Borsolino hat and trench coat. I remember the headlines: ‘The Mafia Don,’ ‘Gangster,’ the misinterpreted quotes by the press, thinking that he was some type of bad man. I guess in a way he was a sort of Don Corleone-type figure. He was cast in a very villainous light. At the time, I thought that was the story. Then you dig a little deeper. I knew very little, like most people. You just sort of assume the press knows what they’re talking about, and that’s the story, off you go. But then when you dig a little deeper into these things, you’re amazed at how unbelievable it is. Kevin had the opportunity of meeting with Jack in prison. When he and I and (director) George (Hickenlooper) got together, that’s really what it was, just sharing all of our information. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet with Mike. He left Washington, and was cooperating with the investigation. He was not really available to speak to. He had paid restitution, $20 some-odd million, like Jack did, yet he didn’t serve any prison time. Obviously, he was able to cooperate with the FBI before Jack did. But what was so remarkable when we got together, comparing our information, was that Jack told Kevin that he held no animosity against Mike and he would consider him a friend today. That was the back-bone of their relationship that we held fast to.

Q: The dynamic that you have with Kevin in the film, as far to being similar to the dynamic between Jack and Mike, how did you build that dynamic?

BP: Well, Kevin’s excellent to work with, so remarkably talented. You elevate each other, in terms of your desire to go there with each other. It’s so enjoyable to work with someone who’s so talented and giving as Kevin. You completely lose yourself in each other. Beyond on, it’s all what you gain from research. Like in my case, I was able to speak to several of Mike’s colleagues and co-workers and friends that worked with him during that period. Some have really fallen out of touch because Mike sort of disappeared and as they described it, left them to pick up the pieces after the scandal broke. That was really interesting to me, that’s where you really start to build. But in terms of the ease and effortlessness of working with Kevin, as soon as you meet him, he’s an easy-go-lucky guy. He doesn’t bring that intense method approach to the set. He’s able to be enjoyable to be around and tell stories and do impressions and make it enjoyable for the entire cast and crew. Unlike with some actors, they can really hermit, lose themselves in the role so much, out of fear of losing the character, and being unable to retain it. They hold onto it to a point that you really can’t communicate with them. Then there’s others, like Kevin, that give equally amazing results, if not some of the best in the business, and he’s got an Oscar in each hand. Yet he’s able to be really enjoyable to be around. In fact, sometimes this subject matter can be really overwhelming and upsetting at times if you’re politically-minded. When you see the truth in Washington, and there’s been no change in lobbying reform, and they’re drowning our democracy, it can be overwhelming. But in order to pick each other up during filmmaking, it’s nice to have someone like Kevin, and Jon of course. They keep things light and lift you up above the subject matter. It was nice the story unfolds the way it does. You’re able to go on this comedic odyssey with these guys. So it’s not your typical dry, Washington scandal film. It’s actually very humorous and entertaining.

Read more:

Jon Lovitz 'Casino Jack' inteview

Read our roundtable interview with actor-comedian Jon Lovitz, who portrays Adam Kidan, the former owner of SunCruz Casinos and former president of Atlantic & Pacific Mattress Company, in ‘Casino Jack.’ The new comedy biopic, which was directed by the late George Hickenlooper, follows the career of Jack Abramoff, a Washington, D.C. lobbyist and businessman who bought SunCruz with Kidan. Both Kidan and Abramoff pled guilty in 2005 for their purchase and handling of SunCruz, among other financial crimes.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): The movie’s director, George Hickenlooper, recently passed away. What was like to work with?

Jon Lovitz (JL): He was the best. I was talking to the president of ATO, which is distributing the film, and said “I became friends with George,” and he said “I became friends with George.” The cast, everyone wanted to become friends with him. He was just the nicest guy. He was very humble, very intelligent, very articulate, really nice. He was just great. One reason I think the movie works is because he was so good to all the actors. So everybody just gives their best work. He always said “You’re such a great actor,” he made you feels so great. I was with him at the Austin Film Festival Wednesday and Thursday (October 27 and 28, 2010) and he died Saturday (October 30) night.

Q: How did you find out?

JL: Well, Spencer Garrett (who plays Tom Delay in the movie) called me. I was crying, it was horrible. We were both crying. I’m not ashamed to say it. It was a shock, horrible. We were all, Kevin Spacy (who portrays Abramoff in the film), me, Spencer, everyone in the movie, were all thrilled to be in a really good movie. I haven’t been offered roles left and right, but the ones I have been offered weren’t good, and I said I didn’t want to make another bad movie. It turned out to be a great movie. George said “You’re great in the movie.” I said, “You made the movie, and I’m glad you didn’t cut my scenes.” I said, a movie’s out for three months, and then after that it’s on DVD forever. But I’m proud to say I’m in a really good movie, a great movie. At the Austin Film Festival, they had the screening, and the audience loved it. I mean, they laughed at everything and every moment. Then there was a question and answer period. George, I can tell you what he said basically. When he grew up, his mother was very political, and was a leftist. He went to Yale, and became a Republican. About six years ago, he became a Democrat. He goes, “Now I think it’s good when the parties change. It’s good for awhile, and then the Republicans get greedy, and things should change, and then they change back. That’s kind of how he felt, he was very politically oriented. That’s why he was so interested in this.

Q: When you were looking up information on Kidan, when you were looking up the role, what was your first impression of what he was like?

JL: I’ll tell you, there was hardly anything on him on the Internet. I found two pictures of him, and some video of him walking to court. So the first picture I saw, he was pretty bald on top, but he had red hair. But he’s smiling really smart, like this (he smirks). In the movie, I did that a lot. The next picture of him is in court, his hair’s all white, he looks like this (he opens eyes really wide, and has a surprised look on his face). So I said, “Oh, there’s two opposites right there.” So how do you get from that to that? Then I read on-line, I had to, about the case and about SunSail (what the cruise line is called in the movie), but it’s really called SunCruz. It’s all real. Kidan started a sandwich chain in Canada, which is still there, in Toronto, then went down to Ft. Lauderdale. (Land-developer, SunCruz casino operator and restaurant owner) Gus Boulis was killed. The guys arrested for the murder worked for Kidan. George said “Do you want to talk to him (Kidan)?” and I said “No, he’s in prison, maybe he murdered this guy.” I didn’t want him to be mad at me, and say “You didn’t play me right.” It didn’t matter, because at the end of the day, you have to play him like in the script, that’s who you’re playing. So I used that, and what I read. Certain things, one of the first things you do as an actor, you look at what all the other characters say about your character. Look at Kelly Preston’s character (she plays Abramoff’s wife, Pam), after she meets me, she has this scene, and she says (to Kevin) “Why are you working with that guy?” She’s completely grossed out about him, disgusted. So that tells me what I have to do to make her say that. In that scene, if you watch it, I’m hitting on her, winking at her, a complete sleaze. Was he like that? I don’t know, but that’s what was in the script. So that’s what you have to play.

Read more:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Casino Jack' Movie Review

'Casino Jack' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

Studios are often taking a gamble on new movies today, and Art Takes Over is no exception. It’s new biographical film ‘Casino Jack,’ which stars Kevin Spacey as well-meaning-turned-greedy Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, doesn’t live up to late director George Hickenlooper’s previously high standards. He tried to make ‘Casino Jack’ the next great biography movie of men involved in Washington, D.C. politics, but ultimately fails by attempting to give the plot an unneeded comedic undertone.

The film follows lobbyist Jack Abramoff (portrayed by Spacey), who is determined to make as much money as possible, in an effort to provide a better life for his wife Pam (played by Kelly Preston) and their five children. Jack and his business partner Michael Scanlon (portrayed by Barry Pepper) decide to defraud several Native American tribes by charging them exorbitant amounts of money.

Read more:

Kwanza Jones Interview

Exclusive Interview with Singer-Songwriter Kwanza Jones

Written by: Karen Benardello

Read our exclusive interview with singer-songwriter Kwanza Jones, whose third studio album, ‘Supercharged,’ is set to hit stores in February 2011. Jones, a seasoned traveler and instrumentalist, discusses with us, among other things, what it was like meeting Quincy Jones, getting her start in the music industry at the famed Apollo Theater and where she gets her inspirations for her songs.

Shockya (SY): While you were a student at Princeton, you met Quincy Jones, which lead you to become interested in music as a profession. What was it about him that pushed you towards singing?

Kwanza Jones (KJ): His words. We were talking about music and my interest in it and he said to me “I know you’ll achieve because your heart is in the right place.” He also told me to “create an identifiable sound.” I figured he’s been around long enough to know. So I listened.

SY: Shortly after meeting Quincy, you performed on “Showtime at the Apollo” at the Apollo Theater. What was that experience like?

KJ: Performing at the Apollo was like being thrown into the ocean and knowing you either sink or swim. The audience at Showtime at the Apollo can be harsh. If they don’t like what you’re doing, you can be booed and kicked off stage. From that experience I learned that liking to sing isn’t enough. People want to be entertained, so you better be prepared to bring it. I definitely brought it and I won!

SY: Your third studio album, ‘Supercharged,’ is scheduled to be released in February 2011. How would you describe the sound of it?

KJ: ‘Supercharged’ is like an energy drink for your ears. Vocally it’s raw and passionate. Musically it’s synth and guitar driven. Your head will bob, your feet will move and your attitude will adjust. I’m going for a fun, danceable sound in this album. For a sneak preview, you can check out my new single
“Think Again” at It just charted at #2 in the Billboard Breakout for Hot Dance Club Play charts. It’s also available on Amazon and iTunes.

Read more:

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Bondi Rescue' TV Series Review

'Bondi Rescue' Television Series Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

People around the world are still looking for a beach that resembles the one featured on the hit 1990s series ‘Baywatch.’ FUEL TV is promising to show its viewers Australia’s answer to the Los Angeles coastline, Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach, in its new series ‘Bondi Rescue.” Viewers will definitely be drawn to the show at first, as they will be intrigued to see if Bondi is really one of the most “dangerous beaches in the world,” as FUEL describes it.

However, FUEL over-glamorized the show’s premiere, as it promised to show a “small group of elite lifeguards striv(ing) to keep visitors safe from the elements…and themselves. From encounters with wildlife, to surf injuries, to fights, to drug busts, to celebrity visits, there is no place like Bondi Beach.”

Read more:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

'The Tourist' Movie Review

'The Tourist' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

The characters are so full of mystery and intrigue viewers begin to forget whose tripping and trapping the other. The new GK Films thriller ‘The Tourist,’ starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, at first makes its viewers believe certain characters are trying to capture their obvious enemies. But as any tourist knows, the further people dig into the unknown, the more mysteries and surprises they’ll come across.

‘The Tourist’ plays an interesting twist on the current crime thriller genre. The plot follows the British police, led by Inspector John Acheson (played by Paul Bettany), as they track wanted criminal Alexander Pearce after he embezzled $2 billion from a known mobster. The police want to collect their $775 million that’s owed to them in back taxes from the stolen money. In an effort to get to Alexander, the police are also tracking his girlfriend Elise Ward (portrayed by Jolie), as they believe he will make contact with her.

Read more:

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Meskada' Movie Review

'Meskada' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

Sometimes just simply watching everyday life can be the perfect inspiration for screenwriters and directors who want to perfectly reflect the conflicts of small-towns across America. As Josh Sternfeld, who wrote and directed the new crime-drama-thriller ‘Meskada,’ thought of the fights over territory, the class system and human rights across the country, he visited small towns throughout the U.S. to witness their everyday way of life. What came out of his journey was not only a showcase of these small towns’ way of life, but a plot filled with intrigue, suspense and murder.

‘Meskada’ follows detective Noah Condin (played by Nick Stahl), who works in the small, peaceful town of Hilliard. He’s assigned to a case involving the murder of the young son of Allison Connor (portrayed by Laura Benanti), an affluent woman who works on the Meskada County Board of Commissioners. Noah believes Allison’s son was murdered in the heat of the moment, as his killers only entered the Connor house to burglarize it. His killers didn’t realize he was there, and needed to get rid of any witness to the crime.

Read more:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wil Wheaon/Aldis Hodge Leverage Interview

Read our interview with Leverage star Aldis Hodge and guest-star Wil Wheaton, who portray computer hackers Alec Hardison and Colin “Chaos” Mason, respectively. Wheaton returns to the show when it airs its special Christmas episode on Sunday, December 12. The series then airs its two-part season 3 finale the following Sunday, December 19. The two actors discuss, among other things, what it’s like to portray a “computer geek,” how Hardison and Chaos relate to each other and why Wheaton decided to return to the hit TNT drama.

Question (Q): Wil, in your 2009 book Just a Geek, Neil Gaiman wrote in your forewords, “As we all discover sooner or later you’re never just a geek.” So Aldis, how has your character Hardison evolved in Leverage to be more than just the geek?

Aldis Hodge (AH): Well he’s taken an interest in a much more substantial role than just being behind a computer. He’s learned from everybody else on the team coupled with the ambition to run his own team one day. He has taken of grifting and he’s learned a little bit about thieving but he’s more learning the mastermind part of it. He wants to do more for the cause of what we do as opposed to just being a player, you know what I mean? So he’s consistently growing watching everybody, learning their moves.

Read more:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Tron: Legacy' Overview

'Tron: Legacy" Overview

Written by: Karen Benardello

One of the most anticipated films of the year is the new Disney sci-fi sequel ‘Tron: Legacy,’ which is scheduled to hit theaters on December 17, just in time for awards season. ‘Tron: Legacy’ follows the original 1982 film, ‘Tron,’ which received largely positive reviews upon its initial theatrical release, in part for its surprising use of special effects. However, ‘Tron’ initially bombed at the box office, but has since garnered a cult following. It has also been turned into a successful franchise, with Disney releasing multiple ‘Tron’ video games and comic books. The studio is now even planning a television series.

Several ‘Tron: Legacy’ stars have given interviews about the film, discussing, among other things, the story’s message, the movie’s use of special effects and what it was like working with first time director Joseph Kosinski. Lead star Jeff Bridges, who returns as video game developer Kevin Flynn, is one of the actors who has spoken about the film. He admitted that he resisted returning to the role that made him well-known among the sci-fi world. Bridges said he was worried how Disney would pull the special effects off.

Read more:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Warrior's Way Movie Review

'The Warrior's Way' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

The holiday season is the most important time in the film world, as it leads right up to the awards season starting in January. One movie being released this month that will surely be overlooked by the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the first televised movie award show of 2011, is the martial arts, stunt-filled ‘The Warrior’s Way.’ Directed by Sngmoo Lee, the film, in typical action fashion, forgoes plot and character development. However, it’s meet with disastrous results.

The numerous trailers released for ‘The Warrior’s Way’ promise viewers a plot full of sword-fighting and special effects. However, the film, which follows the world’s greatest swordsman, Yang (played by South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun), as he refuses his latest mission, doesn’t live up to his high moral standards.

Read more:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Conviction' Movie Review

Aren’t Movies Based on Real-Life Stories Supposed to be Touching?

New Drama ‘Conviction’ Doesn’t Do Academy Award-Winning Actress Hilary Swank Justice

Written by: Karen Benardello

Sometimes all it takes is one person to stand up for what they believe is right in order for justice to be served. That was certainly the case with working mother Betty Anne Waters, who spent over a decade working to obtain her law degree solely to represent her wrongfully convicted brother Kenny. Director Tony Goldwyn and two-time Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank teamed up in the new drama ‘Conviction’ to prove not only that justice delayed isn’t justice denied, but that women can also accomplish anything they put their minds too.

The movie, which is based on the Waters’ real life story, starts off to a slow start however, as it shows several seemly unrelated events from their childhood and early adult life. While Goldwyn and screenwriter Pamela Gray most likely did this to show the close bond between Betty Anne and Kenny (played by Sam Rockwell), and the fact that they caused mischief as children, there were no cohesive storyline for the first 15-20 minutes of the film. The audience is unable to bond with the characters, and is left wondering how these unconnected events relate to the central storyline.

‘Conviction’ finally got to the point when it showed the adult Betty Anne working part-time as a waitress while she takes classes to earn her degree from Roger Williams University. While she struggles to raise her two teenage sons, Richard (portrayed by Conor Donovan) and Ben (played by Owen Campbell), on her own at the same time, Betty Anne is determined to prove Kenny was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1983. Kenny was arrested for the 1980 slaying of Katharina Brow, but Betty Anne fights to get biological evidence to send to the Innocence Project, an organization that works to overturn unjust convictions.

Expectations for Swank’s performance were high, as she won her first Oscar for her portrayal of transgender man Brandon Teena in the hit 1999 movie ‘Boys Don’t Cry.’ In that role, Swank proved that she knows how to connect to, and accurately depict the emotions of, real-life people. However, in ‘Conviction,’ Swank fails to recapture her former glory; not only does she have the same body language and monotone voice in almost every scene, and doesn’t resonate any of the joys or fears Betty Anne feels. This lack of emotion may in part have been due to the fact that over 18 years’ worth of events was packed into a one-hour and 45-minute film, and a lot of information from Betty Anne’s life was omitted from the final script.

The true stand-out star of ‘Convicted’ is Academy Award-nominated actress Melissa Leo (who first rose to fame in the mid-1990s on ‘Homicide: Life on the Streets’). In the film, she plays Nancy Taylor, the only woman police officer in the Ayer police force in the early 1980s. In order to excel at her job, she pins Katharina’s murder on Kenny. Leo convincingly plays someone who doesn’t care who she has to hurt or what she has to do in order to get what she wants. Viewers will certainly enjoy watching Betty Anne try to take down Nancy and see justice prevail.

Overall, Goldwyn and Gray deserve credit for wanting to showcase Betty Anne’s hard work to free people wrongfully convicted of crime and to fight for inmates’ rights. While obviously the numerous struggles she faced during her two-decade crusade to free her brother couldn’t all be featured in the film, many viewers will still feel cheated from ‘Conviction’s simplistic plot.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How Far Will Sara Bareilles’ Music Career Go?

How Far Will Sara Bareilles’ Music Career Go?
The ‘Love Song’ Singer Proves She’s Not Just a One-Hit Wonder with Her Second Album, ‘Kaleidoscope Heart’

Written by: Karen Benardello

‘Kaleidoscope Heart,’ the sophomore album from Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, debuted at number one on Billboard’s Top 200 chart during the second week of September, is reporting. The album, which was released on September 7, outsold her debut record, which was released in 2007.

The new record also held the number one album spot in iTunes’ Top 100 album chart, while the video for the album’s first single, ‘King Of Anything,’ hit number one on VH1’s Top 20 Countdown. Of her success, Bareilles proved yet again how much she cherishes her fans by saying “I’m over the moon about this. I had no idea that this was even possible and so here I am once again inspired and amazed by the impact of the most generous fans in the world.”

The ‘Love Song’ singer received much-deserved praise from numerous critics, proving she’s not just a one-hit wonder. The Wall Street Journal rightfully placed her alongside other pop music greats by saying “‘Kaleidoscope Heart’ plants Sara in Billy Joel territory.” Bareilles was able to move past the two-time Grammy-nominated song that made her famous with her new album. PEOPLE Magazine rightfully praised her for it, saying “In 2007 the singer-songwriter rocketed from obscurity with her album ‘Little Voice’ (which sold over 1 million copies worldwide) and the Grammy-nominated pop-rock gem ‘Love Song.’ How does she follow up on that? Impeccably.”

Bareilles has been busy promoting ‘Kaleidoscope Heart,’ which she wrote, by appearing on such shows as ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,’ ‘The Today Show’ and ‘Live! With Regis and Kelly.’ She also kicked off her Fall Headlining Tour on September 23rd at Idaho State University, and has plans to visit 30 major cities across America. The tour will end on December 17th at the Van Duzer Theatre at Humboldt State in Eureka, Californai. Hopefully, her fans will like her new music and attend the concerts to show their support.

Lylit Unexpected EP Review

Lylit Unexpected EP Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

Singer, song-writer and instrumentalist Lylit, who hails from Austria, the classical music capital of the world and the birthplace of such music legends as Mozart and Beethoven, is striving to bring her unique gospel-infused jazz sound over to the US. Her new EP, ‘Unexpected,’ comes with high expectations, as she has the same look and feel as R&B/pop-rock singer-songwriter-musician Pink. Even at the young age of 25, Lylit already stands out, as she has a life full of diverse experiences to write about.

‘Unexpected’ doesn’t fail to deliver with its first song, titled ‘The Plan,’ as it instantly grabs its listeners’ attention and refuses to let go. ‘The Plan’ definitely sets a high bar for the rest of the EP with a catchy instrumental melody leading up to Lylit’s surprisingly powerful voice. The gospel singer draws her listeners in and refuses to let go; the song infuses the Austrian gospel countryside with African American traditions. Lylit creates a unique sound by channeling the hip-hop/jazz/classical mix she learned while being professionally trained during her university years. She surprises yet again during the last minute of ‘The Plan,’ as her instruments are tuned down to primarily feature her commanding voice.

Read more: